Why Are We Even Talking about Leaving the ELCA?
Part of a 7 week course called "Sense and Sensuality" by Rev. Gary Blobaum
A few years ago, our presiding bishop, Bishop Hanson, described the ELCA as “a liberal, mainstream, Protestant church.” This came as a surprise. It’s true that in 2002-03 the ELCA had lobbied the U.S. Congress in support of partial-birth abortion. It’s true that ELCA missionaries were told to “dialogue” with people of other religions and not to invite them to faith in Christ. And it’s true that ELCA worship planners have been eliminating masculine-sounding addresses for God (“Father,” “Son,” and “Lord”) and replacing them with feminine or neutral-sounding addresses for God (“Mother,” “Inclusive God,” “God the dancer”). The leadership of the ELCA may have been thinking for some time that this church was a liberal denomination. The surprise was to hear the bishop come right out and say so.
In matters such as the sanctity of human life, the doctrine of salvation through Christ alone, and the revelation of the name of God, the ELCA has quietly ignored the authority of Scripture. But last August the ELCA came right out and said so. The new social statement on human sexuality admits that the “historic Christian tradition and the Lutheran Confessions have recognized marriage as a covenant between a man and a woman, reflecting Mark 10:6-9…” The social statement recognizes that the church, in obedience to Scripture, has always taught that marriage is between a man and a woman.
The social statement recognizes this on the one hand and, on the other, validates same-gender couples in seeking “the highest legal accountability available for their relationships,” namely, marriage. In practice, the ELCA has been disregarding the authority of Scripture for some time; the new social statement is the first instance of its approving an outright contradiction of Scripture.
When a church body knowingly substitutes its own word for the Word of God, the saints may not remain silent. Sizeable majorities of ELCA Lutherans have responded to drafts of the social statement by expressing their opposition. Lutheran bishops from across the globe have warned the ELCA of the spiritual danger inherent in its adoption of a teaching contrary to Scripture. Bishops and leaders of other denominations have repeated the warning. Yet the ELCA obstinately continues to depart from the Word of God, the tradition of the church, and the consensus of the faithful.
Luther said the people of God have a right to the true teaching of the Word. Each congregation must answer: Will the ELCA preserve and promote true teaching among the people of God now and for generations to come?